How to Win with APIs – Part 1

A Successful API Strategy

Companies today realize that smart data strategy is fundamental for business success. They invest and spend resources to make sure the data is protected, stored and backed up. But it’s just as important to manage the communication of data and ensure its seamless flow not only internally, but also with external sources, such as partners and clients. This is where APIs (application programming interfaces) come in. APIs enable applications and services to communicate. In a data-driven and multi-cloud world, APIs are essential to your business, and it’s important to develop a strategy around APIs.

A successful API strategy needs to include two essential concepts:

  • An API-first approach
  • An API Hub

Taking an API-First Approach

API strategy

APIs enable application and services integration. Be it via HTTP/S REST/SOAP or any other protocol, APIs are the contract between the parties. Since APIs are critical for business process orchestration, it’s a good strategy for companies to take an “API first” approach. This blog post, “Understanding API First Design,” goes into detail on what that looks like. The fundamental idea is to have the API contract well-defined, long before the app or service is in place. This drives focused thinking, where the “what” comes before the “how.” In other words, let’s define what this service is required to provide, before we think of how it is to be implemented. In most cases the “what” is more critical. Once the API is defined, it enables the freedom to replace or recreate the underlying implementation as needed.

Establishing an API Hub

Beyond just the strategic approach to API-first, you also need technology that supports good API management. As your business increases the number of its APIs, you need a repository to hold all those contracts in a central location — within the organization or as a service in the cloud. This repository serves as a hub, where APIs are published, searched for, and consumed. At its foundation, good API management is comprised of three major building blocks, which you need for a successful API hub: an API manager, API gateway, and API portal. Let’s review each of these briefly.

  • The API manager: This tool enables the publishing and controlling of the API lifecycle (activation, deletion, version, etc.). Policies such as rate-limit, IP filtering, and caching can be defined as well as authentication and authorization methods. Your API manager should have monitoring and analytics views, where admins can get insight into API usage and track errors or access violations.
  • The API gateway: Essentially, the API gateway is a smart and powerful proxy. It is the runtime that carries out and enforces the rules and policies that are pre-defined in the API manager. The gateway also tracks and collects execution information.
  • The API portal: The portal provides API consumers with secure access to managed APIs. API consumers can subscribe to APIs, see descriptions and details such as status, authentication type, applicable access control policy, and drill down to further details with tools like Swagger or WSDL. From the portal, developers can generate SDKs and test the APIs.

Together, the concepts of API-first and an API hub are essential for your company’s API strategy, which is in its turn, a driver for successful data management. Stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll discuss the difference between Lightweight and Data APIs. Learn more about Informatica API management.

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